Little Fuzzy – Day 33 of 77

Kellogg didn’t want the Fuzzies to be sapient beings. If they weren’t they’d be … fur-bearing animals. Jack thought of some overfed society dowager on Terra or Baldur, wearing the skins of Little Fuzzy and Mamma Fuzzy and Mike and Mitzi and Ko-Ko and Cinderella and Goldilocks wrapped around her adipose carcass. It made him feel sick.

VII

Tuesday dawned hot and windless, a scarlet sun coming up in a hard, brassy sky. The Fuzzies, who were in to wake Pappy Jack with their whistles, didn’t like it; they were edgy and restless. Maybe it would rain today after all. They had breakfast outside on the picnic table, and then Ben decided he’d go back to his camp and pick up a few things he hadn’t brought and now decided he needed.

“My hunting rifle’s one,” he said, “and I think I’ll circle down to the edge of the brush country and see if I can pick off a zebralope. We ought to have some more fresh meat.”

So, after eating, Rainsford got into his jeep and lifted away. Across the run, Kellogg and Mallin were walking back and forth in front of the camp, talking earnestly. When Ruth Ortheris and Gerd van Riebeek came out, they stopped, broke off their conversation and spoke briefly with them. Then Gerd and Ruth crossed the footbridge and came up the path together.

The Fuzzies had scattered, by this time, to hunt prawns. Little Fuzzy and Ko-Ko and Goldilocks ran to meet them; Ruth picked Goldilocks up and carried her, and Ko-Ko and Little Fuzzy ran on ahead. They greeted Jack, declining coffee; Ruth sat down in a chair with Goldilocks, Little Fuzzy jumped up on the table and began looking for goodies, and when Gerd stretched out on his back on the grass Ko-Ko sat down on his chest.

“Goldilocks is my favorite Fuzzy,” Ruth was saying. “She is the sweetest thing. Of course, they’re all pretty nice. I can’t get over how affectionate and trusting they are; the ones we saw out in the woods were so timid.”

“Well, the ones out in the woods don’t have any Pappy Jack to look after them” Gerd said. “I’d imagine they’re very affectionate among themselves, but they have so many things to be afraid of. You know, there’s another prerequisite for sapience. It develops in some small, relatively defenseless, animal surrounded by large and dangerous enemies he can’t outrun or outfight. So, to survive, he has to learn to outthink them. Like our own remote ancestors, or like Little Fuzzy; he had his choice of getting sapient or getting exterminated.”

Ruth seemed troubled. “Gerd, Dr. Mallin has found absolutely nothing about them that indicates true sapience.”

“Oh, Mallin be bloodied; he doesn’t know what sapience is any more than I do. And a good deal less than you do, I’d say. I think he’s trying to prove that the Fuzzies aren’t sapient.”

Ruth looked startled. “What makes you say that?”

“It’s been sticking out all over him ever since he came here. You’re a psychologist; don’t tell me you haven’t seen it. Maybe if the Fuzzies were proven sapient it would invalidate some theory he’s gotten out of a book, and he’d have to do some thinking for himself. He wouldn’t like that. But you have to admit he’s been fighting the idea, intellectually and emotionally, right from the start. Why, they could sit down with pencils and slide rules and start working differential calculus and it wouldn’t convince him.”

“Dr. Mallin’s trying to—” she began angrily. Then she broke it off. “Jack, excuse us. We didn’t really come over here to have a fight. We came to meet some Fuzzies. Didn’t we, Goldilocks?”

Goldilocks was playing with the silver charm on the chain around her neck, holding it to her ear and shaking it to make it tinkle, making small delighted sounds. Finally she held it up and said, “Yeek?”

“Yes, sweetie-pie, you can have it.” Ruth took the chain from around her neck and put it over Goldilocks’ head; she had to loop it three times before it would fit. “There now; that’s your very own.”

“Oh, you mustn’t give her things like that.”

“Why not. It’s just cheap trade-junk. You’ve been on Loki, Jack, you know what it is.” He did; he’d traded stuff like that to the natives himself. “Some of the girls at the hospital there gave it to me for a joke. I only wear it because I have it. Goldilocks likes it a lot better than I do.”

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